Chapter XVI (Running Back to Saskatoon) 2/11/22. (16)

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My first radio hire
was a hippie named Gar
He helped me a lot
as we gathered our stars.

Sebastian & Woody
became part of the gang
And when we added Ron Doc & Alfie
we came on with a bang

As I said in a previous chapter, When my daughter Candis was born, and CKY made me their Music Director, I left The Jury to focus on radio.
Then I was named the new program director of CKOM in Saskatoon before I was even ready.

Upon arriving in Saskatoon in the middle of winter, I soon discovered that it was even colder than Winnipeg.
Management wanted me to stay in the motel for a few days to listen to the station before coming in.

Unfortunately, after listening for a couple of days, I was crazed because even though I didn’t know much about programming, I knew what I was hearing would never work.

They started the day off with some middle-of-the-road music, you know, folks like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Perry Como.
Then a piano player showed up and played some sing-along stuff. At ten, they switched to Country, CHR at four, then back to MOR in the early evening, followed by some talk shows.

Whew, I knew that I had my work cut out for me, so with my scribbled notes, I headed into the station.
Right after they introduced me to the staff, I sat down with my new boss to discuss my findings.

Like a fool, I started right off with what I thought had to be ripped off the air immediately.
However, hearing nothing but crickets, I look up from my notes and see my boss trembling with rage. That’s when I suddenly realized I was talking to the guy who had put that shit on the air. Oh, oh.

That opening meeting put me back by at least six months.
So gathering my wits about me, I decided to fix the production sound first, and because we were short an announcer, I hired Gary Russell.
When Gary arrived, he only had one question, “What the f**k is all this?” ( Gary pictured on top with me)

Management loved our new production sound so much so that they gave me a raise.
However, when I tried to convince them that fixing production wouldn’t improve the ratings, they waved me off.

Sure enough, when the ratings come out, they’re a disaster, and now management wants to know how quickly I can change everything.
Their goal was to say to the returning owner, “Yes, the ratings are terrible, but as you can hear, we have a brand new sound”

It is said that the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and because Gar and I had anticipated this moment, we already had the replacement staff all lined up.
We held on to Ken Sebastian Singer, then we brought in Keith Elshaw from Toronto, Doc Harris from Vancouver, Ron Andrews from Regina, and Woody Cooper from Omaha. Then when Dylan Thomas arrived from Albuquerque, we were all set.
Not only did we sound completely different, which scared the shit out of the sales department, we were also attracting a lot of new fans.
One of them was Joni Mitchell, who was in town visiting her folks right when we launched the new format.

Joni surprised us when she dropped by with a longhaired friend of hers to give us her new album and while there,she agreed to do an interview.
When we took a short break, Joni introduced us to her companion, who turned out to be, Graham Nash from the Hollies. Wow!

Graham told us that he had popped into Saskatoon to visit with Joni for a couple of days before heading to LA to record an album with his new group, Crosby Stills & Nash. (C S & N pictured below)
This time when the ratings came out, they were killer and I mistakingly thought everything was beautiful.
Then the owner popped into my office and asked me if I was ready for the big meeting?

When I just laughed and said that I didn’t need to do much prep for a celebration meeting, he shocked me with, “It’s not a celebration; it’s quite the opposite.
“The sales department,” he said, “Was getting resistance from our old clients, so they want to return to the old ways.”

Wow, I sure wasn’t ready for that, so when I called my mentor Jim Hilliard for some advice, he said, “Go into the attack mode Buddy,” and I was sure up for that.
Knowing that I was about to rain hell down on everyone, I called my wife who was back visiting family in Transcona, to say that that I might not have a job come supper time.

Instead of panicking, she told me to do whatever I had to do, because if worse came to worse, we could always live with her folks.
It’s easy to be brave when a man has his family backing him, so when I walked into that conference room, I was walkin’ tall and loaded for bear.

Strangely, even though I’d arrived a few minutes early, everyone else was already seated, which pissed me off. No problem, I give much better meetings when I’m pissed.
The GM began the meeting by congratulating me on the excellent ratings, but I interrupted him when he got to the part about our having a few issues with the new sound.

“No,” I said, “You don’t have issues with the new sound, the only issues you have are sitting in this room.”
“Someone,” I went on to say, “Should have anticipated that there’d be resistance as there is to anything new and formulated a plan on how to overcome it.

We should be out there right now, explaining to our clients that now is the time to take advantage of all our new listeners.
Instead, it looks like our crack sales force was asleep at the wheel.”

“Not only do we sound good,” I went on with, “But we also have statistical justification that proves that we’re on to something.
So if you’re here to tell me that you want the old ways back, I can assure you that it won’t be me doing it.” And with that, I walked out of the meeting.


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